Back from the Traditional Roots in Portland

Traditional Roots Institute Herbal Conference:

The feeling I experienced as I walked through National College of Natural Medicine’s campus on Friday May 16th, it was indescribable. Not only was I surrounded by the beautiful and magical city of Portland, OR, I was surrounded by spirits of thousands of healers who have studied natural medicine around the world. After locating the main academic building and entering the Traditional Roots Institute Herbal Conference I began to absorb the excitement and energy from the naturopaths, herbalists and healers around me!

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend Paul Bergner’s class, “Humoral Considerations in Botanical GI” where I learned a vast amount about the differences in hot and cold herbs, moist or dry and how those relate to the body’s inherent composition. My journey towards health and wellness using natural remedies began when my GI doctor wouldn’t target the cause of my stomach issues, but insisted that antispasmodics would manage my symptoms. The western medications made me feel even worse and I turned to ginger (Zingiber officinale), chamomile (Matricaria recutita), basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) and peppermint (Mentha piperita)to manage my symptoms. But I didn’t want to just manage my symptoms, I wanted to feel healthy and alive again. After seeking naturopathic care and determining that I was gluten intolerant, I began to heal my body using the same herbs that Paul was referencing: ginger, peppermint, fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and many others in various combinations in order to soothe and heal the digestive tract.

After Paul’s talk I had the opportunity to talk to Oregon’s Wild Harvest and Galen’s Way and Herb Pharm about Herbal Anthropology Project’s current and future projects in Tanzania and Borneo. It was fantastic being able to speak with herbalists and natural healers about the importance of supporting indigenous communities in traditional medicine documentation. Finally, as we approached the end of the day, I was able to sit down and speak with the Melissa Berry who is a Naturopathic Doctor and owner of Missionary Chocolates. Her love and passion for healing was evident not only in her story but in her chocolates! I had the opportunity to taste “Meyer Lemon Explosion” and “Dark Chocolate Delight.” (Trust me…you want to get some of these…especially my vegan friends! Some of the best chocolate I have EVER had)! The goal of these chocolates is to raise the money needed for an integrative healing center in Portland, OR which will be funded by the best medicines around: love and chocolate! In addition, Wild Wines various flavors paired perfectly with the chocolate. Who doesn’t love wine and chocolate!? All the flavors were delicious! The raspberry tasted like the bottle had just been plucked off the raspberry bush, the Linden Flower was was perfectly balanced with the slight bitter flavor of the linden flower and the Elderberry propelled me into a world of pure joy! Needless to say, I happily purchased a bottle of the Elderberry and Ginger Wines and was not disappointed.

That night I attended a fundraiser organized by my gracious host, Maria Valdez, for the Zimbabwe Artists Project. The beautiful house was located in the suburbs of Portland, OR and was set back in a jungle of trees. The steep stone steps were lined with paper bag lanterns and rope-lights were hanging from the trees. As I approached the house, I could hear African music blaring and the house was decorated with magnificent works of art done by Zimbabwean women from rural Weya. There were hand-painted plates and tapestries and beautifully stitched tapestries hanging all over the house available for purchase. I was able to chat with a few NCNM students and faculty members and then…we danced! We danced for some time until the time zone difference forced me to accept that the party was over and it was time to head to bed.

On Sunday, May 19th, I attended Jim McDonald‘s talk, “Surviving Sinusitis and Other Catarrhal Calamities.” It was a fantastic lecture about various treatments for sinus related problems and how to treat the underlying cause by taking into account the person’s body temperature and moisture. He had the entire room laughing with the impersonations of a lax person or “chronic-sniffer”/”leaky-nose wiper,” a dry person or “rubber-cement-booger picker,” and a damp person or “I could blow my nose all day and not relieve my congestion.” He provided detailed descriptions of how each of these situations would present in people and then provided various herbs to treat these problems. However, I now find myself categorizing people around me as dry, lax, or damp more often than I should!

The final keynote speaker was a beautiful woman, Martha Libster. Her sensitivity, respect and passion was evident in her presentation. What I enjoyed most was the focus on making everyone into their own medicine makers. By doing so, we can allow patients to reconnect with nature while also tailoring their medicines to their bodies. They can better adjust dosage on a daily basis using fresh and whole food herbs that they grow or collect. The quote that resonated most with me was, “you don’t take a plant unless you have been properly introduced.” As natural healers we need to make sure that patients have been properly introduced to the natural medicines we prescribe because “medicine is the surgery of functions, as surgery proper is that of limbs and organs. Neither can do anything but remove obstructions; neither can cure; nature alone cures” (Florence Nightingale).

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